Latin American countries face significant challenges in protecting their borders, defending their long seacoasts and monitoring covert activity on the ground.
To know what’s going on around them, governments in the region need a clear picture of potential threats on land, on the sea and in the air. Saab’s Erieye Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) radar system provides detailed situational awareness in a versatile and cost-effective way.
The Erieye system puts antennas high in the sky in order to move the radar horizon much farther away than is possible with ground-based radar systems on land or sea. It is used on a variety of aircraft platforms, including the Saab 2000.
Countries currently using the Erieye radar system include Mexico, Brazil, Greece, Pakistan, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Sweden. Among them, they are using a total of more than 20 systems.
Advantages over ship-based radar
Saab’s Senior Sales Director for Latin America, Stefan Behre, says a naval radar on the mast of a ship might be 10 or 15 metres above sea level, meaning the radar horizon could be less than 40 kilometres away. If there is a low-flying target, it won’t be detected until it’s very close. “By comparison, an early warning aircraft patrolling at some 10,000 metres has a radar horizon way over 400 kilometres away, and the Erieye system can spot an object as small as a jet ski,” he says.
Advantages over ground-based radar
Behre says rugged terrain, such as in the Amazon Basin, can severely limit what ground-based radar can see, and a skilled pilot will know how to evade it. “In addition, the ground-based radar horizon limits the performance,” he says. “Even if you have a long-range radar, you will not detect low-flying targets at a distance of more than 100 to 120 kilometres, or even less.”
Relevance to Latin America
Mexico and Brazil already employ Erieye systems, and one main use is to combat drug trafficking. The Erieye can detect and monitor any aircraft operating in vast swathes of territory, and it can look both upward and downward.
Other civilian uses
In case of a natural disaster, Erieye can be used in search and rescue missions to coordinate ground and air action. Some countries use it to control their airspace when planes are carrying people to VIP meetings, and others use it to detect illegal fishing off their coasts. “A single system can be used for multiple purposes,” Behre says. “During a hostage situation in Peru some years ago, Brazil lent assistance with its Erieye system and was able to detect radio communications that allowed Peru to pinpoint the location of the hostages.”
Erieye can be used as a command and control centre to support air combat in conflict situations. It can locate helicopters, sea targets, missiles and aircraft targets at all altitudes.
“Before a customer commits to purchasing an Erieye system, we like to sit down with them and discuss how they plan to use it,” Behre says. “Then we can recommend a service package and tailor it to meet their needs. At one extreme, we can take care of all the maintenance and service, making sure the system is ready to run at all times. At the other extreme, the customer might decide to take care of everything, while keeping an open line with us to order repairs if necessary.” The final package may well end up somewhere between these extremes.
“In Mexico, for example, we offer a 24/7 remote service,” Behre says. “If they have a problem, they can call us. We can then duplicate the problem on a backup system in Sweden and provide a fix. Engineers also travel to Mexico twice a year to deal with any issues. In addition, Mexico has a supply of spare parts, so if a part fails, they can replace it with a spare and send the part to us for repair.”